Pentecost 143

Pentecost 143
My Psalms 143

A Clockwise Covenant

They would all gather every Friday morning at someone’s house. From nine in the morning to one or two in the afternoon was “their” time. This group of friends, sisters, cousins, and neighbors exchanged recipes, complaints, and household tips. Some would bring crochet or knitting; others brought mending. During the time for needlework, coffee and conversation flowed freely. Baking was shared and large amounts prepared so that everyone had multiple things to take home. These were women who had once had large families but now cooked for only two or sometimes three. They baked their favorites and then spread the wealth among all. The food would be taken home and eaten during the next week. Projects were appreciated and those feeling stuck were given advice and help. The encouragement was fuel for continuing. Few had gone past high school and a couple worked outside of their homes still, using their four day/ten-hour-a-day schedule to make room for the Friday Funfest gathering.

Occasionally, a granddaughter would be present or great-niece. On those days, paper dolls would be brought out and coloring books would be part of the creative time. Older hands showed younger ones how to do the needle arts often forgotten in the modern world. Stools would appear in the kitchen and small hands would be covered by larger ones as they learned to kneed bread dough and cut corn off the cob. Each summer the “city” granddaughter” would be reminded to stir the cake batter in a clockwise motion. Each year when she asked why, these women of the country whose lives had changed very little from those of their mothers and grandmothers would lecture on living above the equator and how their location, the tides, and motion of the earth required the direction of their stirring. And each summer, at least once a summer, the “city granddaughter” would smile impishly and stir counterclockwise. All would laugh and then toss out the batter. New batter would be made, stirred in one direction. After all, life needs its sweets – properly made, of course!

Legend has it that the ancient Celtic people, those original inhabitants of the British Isles and many parts of Europe, were very precise in their movements. While much of what we know about them comes from the writings of the Romans, their enemies and eventual conquerors, it is accepted that groups of these people firmly believed in doing things we today would consider obsessive compulsive. It is reported that they believed that if one was to turn left and walk far enough, one would find him or herself at the end of the world and fall off unless the walker turned around and went back the other way. Therefore, it was common practice for this culture to do everything in one direction since it was known to be safe. They went about their duties daily walking the same number of steps in one direction and then, upon completion, walked back the opposite direction the exact same number of steps.

You might remember a post from a couple of days ago discussed the storms of life and the Coriolis Effect. Oddly enough, these women from our Friday gathering did have scientific basis for their thinking and it was the Coriolis Effect. There are a few mixtures that are blended more quickly and smoothly by being stirred in one direction. Remembering that cooking is indeed a chemistry experiment that we, hopefully, get to eat upon completion, one can understand the importance of complete dispersion of the ingredients one into another. Generally speaking, though, the direction one stirs is of little importance as long as the mixture is incorporated into itself completely. There are a few exceptions to that, nonetheless.

Geodynamics or the Coriolis Effect is one of those exceptions, although it plays a very small role on the ultimate success of the recipe. Due to the rotation of the earth as it moves through space, vortexes such as the draining of the kitchen sink and even tropical storms have specific direction of spin. North of the equator they tend to spin counterclockwise and south of the equator they rotate in a clockwise direction. This means that in the Northern Hemisphere, the cake batter in a kitchen has a counterclockwise force exerted. Stirring counterclockwise would then increase the velocity of the stirred mass. Stirring clockwise requires more energy and actually burns more calories. The caloric burn is miniscule so don’t think you can stir cake batter clockwise and lose weight! You are making things harder for yourself although you are also probably becoming stronger and a teensy bit healthier…as long as you don’t inhale the finished cake!

There is a much simpler reason for those wonderful women admonishing the young girl for not stirring clockwise. It is because of human physiology. Most right handed people stir better – more smoothly, and faster when stirring in a clockwise motion. This is due to the anatomy of the arm and hand. It just works best in that direction. Since right-handed people outnumber lefties by approximately a nine-to-one ratio, cookbooks and baking instructors universally advocate stirring in a clockwise manner. Poor results from improper stirring are also most likely the origin of the old superstition that stirring counterclockwise creates bad luck. It doesn’t really; it just results in a lackluster cake.

How do we stir things in our own lives? Are we content to walk the same number of steps forward and then retrace those going backwards? Do we dare to venture past the known and explore our potential? Many make a covenant with their soul to be the best possible only to withdraw out of fear of the possible. Imam Al-Ghazali explains this internal clash: Never have I dealt with anything more difficult than my own soul, which sometimes helps and sometimes opposes me.”

The clockwise versus counterclockwise debate can seem to be an analogy for lift versus dark, forward versus backward, positive versus negative, past versus future. NASCAR races tend to run counterclockwise. Based upon a previous paragraph, we can determine they do so to gain the most momentum possible. How we live our covenant with ourselves determines whether we run the race of life in the most expedient manner possible or whether we are our own biggest roadblock. We need to move, clockwise or counterclockwise, with strength and know that if we do reach the end, we won’t fall off. Faith is there to catch us if we just reach out to it…and remember to laugh, love, and live the life!

My Psalm 143

Lord, Great Power and Spirit,
I need you!
The world is unknown and scary.
I am very afraid.
Please do not ever leave me.
I trust in you, O God.
I count on your mercy and guidance.
I seek your wisdom and counsel.
You are my strength, my compass, my refuge.
I place my trust in you, O Father.
The world is full of enemies and evil paths.
Hear my call for direction, Almighty Spirit.
Give me your ear and show me the way to travel.
We are called to move and not to wither and die.
Help me to move forward to prosperity, dear Lord.
Let me adopt the ways of your love in my life.

Pentecost 89

Pentecost 89
My Psalm 89

Purpose: Covenant & Togetherness

It is one of the most beloved films ever made. “It’s a Wonderful Life” tells the story of a man depressed who considers ending his life. An angel appears and shows him how his life has value. I will confess that this film is not one of my favorites. It never has been. If you are a regular follower of this bog, you know that I am an optimist. You also know a recurring theme is that we all live together on this planet and so we should also all work together in that living. It seemed so simple to me as a child that I felt the theme of this film redundant.

The truth is that very few people realize the covenant we all share simply by occupying the same planet. The need for harmonious living is overlooked as a means for success – politically, emotionally, mentally, etc. In the early part of the twentieth century, the composer Igor Stravinsky challenged the way audiences viewed and understood the word harmonious. His use of the twelve tones of the musical scale caused an uproar and audience walked out of performances of his compositions before they reached the halfway mark. Today, however, he is considered one of the greatest if not the greatest composers of his time.

Over a year ago I was asked where my “spiritual place” was. The person asking held an annual trip to a specific locale in which they found solace and comfort. It was here, they stated, that they had found their spiritual place. Another spoke of their favorite vacation spot as being their spiritual place. My response was somewhat ill-received. I said my spiritual place was internal; I thought the goal was to make life a spiritual place.

I look back on that conversation and realize I could have explained myself more thoroughly perhaps but I still like my answer. I think it is important to find spirituality wherever we are. For me, that makes me live harmoniously in the situation. I don’t have to like it; I just have to stay within my belief system while living in and through whatever is going on around me.

Many religious people have a covenant with themselves and their preferred belief system. I hope that covenant provides harmonious living for all. That often is the sticking point. We tend to think we know what is best for us but at a sacrifice to others. Let’s use an example of immigrants. Every country has those moving in, either by choice or to escape a difficult situation or regime in their native land. Usually there are laws governing such moves. The goal is to harmoniously integrate these immigrants into the country’s socio-economic structure without detriments to the citizens already living there. While discrimination exists, today it has become focused on those illegally entering as immigrants, even though their need is just as great or perhaps even greater. We have to harmoniously find a solution that assists all while being true to humanitarian needs and existing laws.

How we live in covenant with our beliefs is evident in how we respect the beliefs of others. The person who lives by the saying “My way or the highway” is really being egotistical and arrogant. They may be perceived as self-confident but in truth, they are hiding their fear of being wrong and making a mistake by being autocratic.

The need to have the biggest and the best usually is accomplished by sacrificing the natural ecosystem. Habitats are destroyed to make way for larger housing developments because the houses themselves are no longer a standard 1800 square feet but 12,000 square feet. Water is used daily for automatic sprinkler systems, even in the midst of a thunderstorm. We claim that reducing pollution from factories means a loss of jobs and so end up having to choose between the economy or the environment. What we fail to see is that without a healthy environment, the workforce will die because man will not survive.

The concept of covenant is seen as Old Testament, a forgotten term for an out-of-date society. In truth, we all live in covenant every minute. Some of us do better at it than others. The mother who dutifully changed her baby’s diaper will one day need her own daily care. The wooded stream that depends on a healthy ecosystem to run clear must be respected and not turned into a backyard party locale.

None of us lives completely off the grid of life. We rely on each other and that does not lessen our stature as people to admit it. We may not be within touching distance but what we do touches each and every aspect of living on this planet every day. We walk in the footsteps of the past, leaving our own for the future. Every action paints the future.

My Psalm 89
Great Creator, you passed this world to us.
Your gift is life for all.
May I walk gently, doing good.
I want to leave vestiges of love in my wake.
I alone must account for my soul.
I cannot do it alone.
I need the world and it needs me.
Ever thing has value.
No breathe exists with a past and a future.
Nothing leaves without a trace.
The future is built on the past.
May the foundation of my life,
Built upon those of my ancestors of life and nature,
Be strong for my descendents.
Let me walk in harmony with nature and man.
Let me do all that I can.
Let me have purpose.